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Alfred Stevens

Belgian, 1823–1906

A Duchess (The Blue Dress)

c. 1866

A young woman, still wearing her cape and one glove, reflects on the contents of a hastily opened letter. Her rings indicate she is married and the calling cards on the table suggest she receives many visitors. Her sumptuous velvet dress and eclectic surroundings are the height of fashion, perhaps excessively so. The original title is sometimes interpreted colloquially—the French words faire la duchesse described “a woman who puts on airs.” The woman’s status, however, is ambiguous, inviting viewers to invent their own story.

Medium Oil on panel
Dimensions 12 3/8 x 10 1/4 in. (31.4 x 26 cm) Frame: 19 1/4 x 17 3/16 x 2 in. (48.9 x 43.7 x 5.1 cm)
Object Number 1955.865
Acquisition Acquired by Sterling and Francine Clark, 1920
Status On View

Image Caption

Alfred Stevens, A Duchess (The Blue Dress), c. 1866, Oil on panel. The Clark Art Institute, 1955.865.


Lees, Sarah, ed. Nineteenth-Century European Paintings at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. Williamstown, MA: Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute; New Haven and London: distributed by Yale University Press, 2012.


Possibly Paran Stevens, New York (d. 1872); Mrs. Paran Stevens (Marietta Reed), New York, his wife (by 1879–d. 1895); Lady Mary Paget (Mary Fiske Stevens), London, her daughter, by descent (1895–d. 1919); [Knoedler, London, sold to Clark, 12 Mar. 1920]; Robert Sterling Clark (1920–55); Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, 1955.